05 November 2012

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson

Nothing ever happens in Norway. But at least Ellie knows what to expect when she visits her grandmother: a tranquil fishing village and long, slow summer days. And maybe she’ll finally get out from under the shadow of her way-too-perfect big brother, Graham, while she’s there.

What Ellie doesn’t anticipate is Graham’s infuriating best friend, Tuck, tagging along for the trip. Nor did she imagine boys going missing amid rumors of impossible kidnappings. Least of all does she expect something powerful and ancient to awaken in her and that strange whispers would urge Ellie to claim her place among mythological warriors. Instead of peace and quiet, there’s suddenly a lot for a girl from L.A. to handle on a summer sojourn in Norway! And when Graham vanishes, it’s up to Ellie—and the ever-sarcastic, if undeniably alluring Tuck—to uncover the truth about all the disappearances and thwart the nefarious plan behind them.

Deadly legends, hidden identities, and tentative romance swirl together in one girl’s unexpectedly-epic coming of age.

I was nervous to pick up Valkyrie Rising.  I had a feeling after reading the synopsis that the potential awesomeness of the story could be easily eclipsed by a shoddy romance, but I liked the idea of Norse mythology finally entering the mix of mythological stories in young adult literature.  I thought Valkyrie Rising would be a story of courage, sacrifice, love and adventure, but I was wrong.  Tera Lynn Childs blurbed Valkyrie Rising, saying that it was a "perfect girl-power romance."  I highly disagree.  I hope this won't be held as the standard of perfection for a girl-power adventure story.  Weighed down by amateur-style writing and a weak, uninspiring main character, I couldn't bring myself to even finish the book.

The writing style was my main issue.  Everything was told to me -- I couldn't sit back and experience it myself.  When the main character, Ellie, experienced a strong emotion, like fury, it was merely stated as this:
I was too fast and way beyond being reasoned with.  I would crush Astrid or die trying.  Anger howled through me, fueled by the certainty that I could win this fight if I was clever and bold enough. (p. 203)
There were gems hidden among the rough, but they were few and far between and buried under unpolished prose.  For example, "anger howled through me" is a great phrase, but Paulson follows it up with telling the reader that Ellie was "certain" about the impending fight.  It wasn't infused with Ellie's anger, leaving me totally unaffected.  This style permeated through the entire book, and I had a hard time wading through it.

My other main issue was Ellie herself.  She was so melodramatic.  She made huge assumptions based on little to no evidence.  This was a side effect of Paulson not building the stakes properly.  If I, the reader, can't understand the significance of something, then Ellie's reactions just make her come off as a spazz.  Also, the writing made Ellie come off as a fraud.  It squashed her character development by cramming an entire character arc into a single paragraph.  I couldn't understand her at all.

I was very disappointed with how poorly the atmosphere was delivered.  Norway, being such an unexplored setting in young adult books, should've been rife with details.  Only, it wasn't.  I couldn't get a sense of the world at all.  Ingrid Paulson left too much to the imagination.  I had to pause in order to construct the details myself and as a reader, I shouldn't have to put in that kind of work.  I wish Paulson had taken some time to weave the world into the prose, but she merely set up the setting in a single introductory paragraph whenever the setting changed.

The romance left a lot to be desired.  I noticed that a lot of the story was spent talking to boys, or Ellie interacting with boys, or Ellie thinking about boys.  I understood that Tuck was an angel incarnate, but let's try to keep our panties on.  Ellie's relationship with Tuck was fraught with holes.  Ellie would go in one direction of thought only to backtrack and go another way.  Being on such unstable footing was a big turnoff when it came to how Ellie and Tuck's relationship progressed.

Finally, there was no passion.  This was an adventure book, where was the blood-pumping action?  This was a romance book, where was the heart-wrenching dedication?  This was about bravery, so where was the courage?  I just couldn't sense any passion behind Ingrid Paulson's words.  I was left thinking, "Why should I care?"

Valkyrie Rising may have worked for me if I felt Paulson had thrown herself into the story and owned it, but with the second-rate writing style, irritating main character and flimsy plot, I just couldn't find a reason to invest in it.

"Hypothetically speaking, if a person urgently needed the key to the cabinet in the china hutch, what would that person need to do to acquire it?"

"Mug my mother," I told him.  "Hypothetically speaking, of course." (p. 6)
Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 352
  • published - October 2012
  • publisher - HarperTeen
  • genre - paranormal romance
  • received via - library
  • rating - 3/5
  • series - Valkyrie
    • Valkyrie Rising